Investigative journalism is an essential pillar of democratic society - a bloodhound as well as a watchdog - to expose criminality, immorality or wrongdoing as well as to hold elites and the powerful to account.
At the CIJ our approach to ethics is rooted in the professional ethics intrinsic to good journalism. Investigative journalism should be founded on the public interest, integrity and reliability. It should be fact-based and, as far as possible, transparent about its methods. Reporters should always strive for accuracy. Buying information, illegally hacking telephones and computers or other similar methods must only be considered and deployed where justified in the most exceptional public interest.
The very nature of investigative reporting, however, means that the information-gathering methods employed in its production can be intrinsically intrusive. Where information-gathering methods involve covert surveillance, undercover filming, sting operations, the use of subterfuge, or the invasion of privacy of individuals, the methods and degree of intrusion must be proportionate and justified by the seriousness of the story, and the public good likely to follow from its publication. Reporters must protect not only their sources’ identities but should keep their communications with sources confidential. They should take all available steps to protect the safety and security of their work product.